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Rights Experts Push for World Court of Human Rights


The Swiss government is launching an Agenda for Human Rights that aims, among other things, to establish a World Court of Human Rights over the next 10 years. A panel of eight "Eminent Persons" will oversee the work of the new organization, which has been established to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA at the launch of the new Agenda in Geneva.

The co-chair of the new organization, Agenda for Human Rights, is Mary Robinson. She was UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 1998, when the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was celebrated.

Robinson laments the past 10 years have seen a further deterioration of human rights around the world, noting incidents of genocide and ethnic cleansing. She says the dignity of millions of people continues to be violated by corruption, poverty, oppression and war.

The former high commissioner also says the emphasis on security in the post 9/11 world is undermining fundamental standards in relation to torture. In the name of fighting terrorism, she says people are being detained without trial and sent to countries where they will be tortured.

Robinson says the world has not lived up to the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"A reality that shames us frankly, that is not acceptable. If the world had taken seriously the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we would have a world where no parents would see their children waking up in the morning crying of hunger, dying from preventable diseases," said Robinson. "There would not be more than half a million mothers dying giving birth. We would have a different world and it would be a much more secure world, of course."

The new organization plans to carry out research projects on themes aimed at strengthening the Declaration and human rights. These include projects on human dignity, prevention of violence, detention, migration, statelessness, the right to health, climate change, and the creation of a world court of human rights.

One of the Eminent Persons on the Panel is Manfred Nowak, who is also UN Special Investigator on Torture. He says there is an International Criminal Court that holds individuals accountable for crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes.

He says there are regional human rights courts in Europe, the Americas and Africa committed to protecting human rights. But, what is lacking, he says, is a World Court on Human rights that can deal with violations globally.

"We would go beyond the powers of regional courts, by in particular taking into account that in a global world, we have global responsibilities that go beyond State responsibilities. But also holding accountable inter-governmental organizations or transnational corporations or others that violate human rights," Nowak said. "So, to give every individual victim of major human rights violations, the right to a remedy before an international human rights court."

Nowak says the court could also decide on legally binding reparations for the victims.

The Eminent Persons acknowledge it may take 10 years for the court to become reality. But, they note the only way to have true justice and to protect human rights is to have independent judges that are not susceptible to corruption.

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